Complexity and how we deal with it

In my previous article The Human Constraint – Leadership or teams, I referred to the increased levels of complexity in business and the resulting pressures on those who work in these businesses.

Look at the way technology has developed in the last 30 years; In the 1990’s we were using dial up to connect to the internet with data transfer speeds averaged around 1.25kb/second and today with fibre optics, we operate upward of 50mb/second. The same can be said for the speed of business, where in the past we could ponder on decisions,  we now have to think on our feet and deliberation is often considered procrastination. Fall behind the curve, you become noncompetitive and your strategy becomes one of survival.

We need everyone in the business to equally contribute to decision making and to then carry out aligned tasks collaboratively so that we achieve our objectives “Right first time, every time”. As a result, the traditional organization chart that has served us in the past now becomes an obstacle to success because it creates silos within the organization and along with our performance measures drives people to promote themselves and their departments above the needs of the company. As an example, improvements in quality standards that aren’t correctly introduced into manufacturing lead to an increase in product failures and protracted batch document reviews.

This isn’t because of a sudden decline in the manufacturing standards, but rather a disconnect between expectations in both departments. As a result, we have increasing tensions and a breakdown in relationships and trust. whirlpool 2More importantly is that product releases are delayed, the business starts missing customer deadlines, suffers lost sales and a decline in revenue. If this cycle continues, then customers will source alternative brands and you will lose them. This downward spiral gets tighter and tighter as it accelerates towards the plughole, leading to businesses failing.

Remember that the consumer needs the product now, not when you can deliver it.

Each of us will reach a point in our lives where we will make a decision about our future, it may be voluntary or through necessity and in both circumstances, skills are lost to industry, whether management or technical.

As leaders in industry, it’s in our best interests to retain skills so that we can ensure growth, stability and sustainability of the business in an increasingly competitive market place. Even though most people are resistant to change, it is the only constant in our lives, the cycle is getting shorter with every revolution and it is getting more and more challenging every day.

This is as good a time as any to think about ways to change and be different in our approach. The question then becomes; “How can we evolve in the way we run our businesses and lead others while trying to optimise the technological developments that are happening around us all the time?”

These are key areas I would focus as a start:

Customer Centricity

  1. Include your Customer and Supplier in your organogram
  2. Make your value chain central to the organogram.
  3. Set it up to serve your customer, both internal and external.

Understand your Processes

  1. Map all of your existing process to get your current reality.
  2. Using the new teams in your organogram structure, map your future reality in the customer-centric world.
  3. Carry out a gap analysis between current reality and future reality so that you and your team can understand the size of the gap and the task ahead of you.

Functional Systems

  1. Make sure your policies and procedures are adapted to suit this view.
  2. As a team, set your goals and targets remembering that the gap represents creative tension, which is good tension if it pulls you towards your goal.
  3. Set up a project plan using resources as the critical chain to define your milestones and overall time frame.


  1. Set your performance measures with the company goals as the focal point. Any effort expended in the business must benefit the overall business.


Highly engaged teams 1This is Systems thinking, and requires a different approach from both Leadership and staff in an organization. Leadership needs to guide everyone through this process and be actively involved at every step. Commitment is far more than talking, it is actually getting into the trenches and working alongside your staff in their cross functional teams to deliver the desired results. Don’t try to achieve something different by doing the same things over and over…….

Individuals don’t have all the answers. water_reaction_models 2Look at basic chemistry, hydrogen and oxygen are both gasses, hydrogen is highly flammable and oxygen provides the environment for it to burn, and yet when combined, they become water, something different with the property of wetness. This phenomenon is Emergence, and it occurs when ideas are brought together to create something powerful through collaboration and dialogue and is key to sustainable success.

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